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Golf Throws Ex-Kicker for a Loss : PGA Seniors: Despite his love for game, former Ram David Ray fails to make cut in qualifying.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

David Ray hasn’t kicked field goals for a living for 20 years. But after spending the last two days trying to qualify for the Senior PGA tour, Ray concluded he’d rather kick a 50-yard field goal under pressure than stroke a 30-foot putt uphill.

“I’d definitely rather kick a field goal, because I don’t get the putts to the hole,” said Ray, who played six of his eight years in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. “I made almost all my kicks under pressure.”

Maybe Ray should have tried putting with his dependable right leg. In two days, he didn’t sink one birdie putt. If he could have made three more putts, Ray would have made the cut, which was at 151 after two days of play at the Senior PGA qualifying event at The Vineyard.

Ray made two triple bogeys Tuesday while shooting a 77. Wednesday, he had shot another 77 that included six bogeys. After preparing six months for this tournament and shelling out $2,000 to play in it, Ray is headed back to Huntington Beach to ponder what to do next: Try again next year or go back to the freight business.

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“Sometimes you’re not as good as you think you are,” said Ray, 51. “I’ve been working for this all year and that’s why this is so tough. I hit the ball fairly long and I thought I was a decent putter. It seems like the harder you try, the harder this game is.”

Ray said golf is even harder for him than most people.

“My biggest fault is I get down on myself,” he said. “You really can’t afford to do that here. This game is all mental.”

But it’s the physical part of golf that keeps Ray coming back.

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“I’m as good as a lot of these guys out here,” he said. “You just hope this is your week. Any given week I’m as good as most of these guys.”

But so far, Ray hasn’t had that kind of week. Last year--his first opportunity to qualify for the Seniors tour--he came close. He shot three-under par and missed advancing to the next stage by one stroke. But even if had advanced to that stage, Ray still would have needed another big week.

Only eight players qualify for the Senior tour each year and about 400 spend $2,000 trying.

“I think this is way tougher than the kids’ tour,” said Ray, who tried qualifying for the regular tour in 1976. “I take my hat off to all these guys out here trying to make it. I think there should be more spots out here than eight. There’s so much interest with it, I think they could handle a few more players.”

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But as frustrated and dejected as Ray was Wednesday afternoon, he still prefers the game and the culture of golf over football.

“I think golf has a better grade of people than football,” he said. “This sport can bring you to your knees. Today’s [football players], I wouldn’t want to be around. Most of them are prima donnas.”

Ray, who also played wide receiver and defensive back for the Rams, said he never made enough money to be called a prima donna.

“I didn’t make a dime playing,” he said. “I’m broke right now. They didn’t pay us. We played because we loved it.”

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